Wyo hay, forage producers band together to create new organization
As hay prices continue to come down from highs during years of extreme drought across the country, Wyoming hay and forage producers are seeking avenues to capture the best value for the high-quality product they provide. To meet that goal, producers and associated businesses have come together to form a new organization – the Wyoming Hay and Forage Association.
Scott Keith, Wyoming Business Council forage program manager, says, “The goal of the organization is very simple – to expand marketing opportunities for the hay and forage industry.”
Ron Richner, a Casper hay producer and member of the establishing committee for the organization says, “We hope to help everyone – from the small producer to the large producer – be able to market their hay and get exposure in markets they might not otherwise have.”
“We have a high quality product, and we want to market it,” he adds.
Mike Fabrizius, a producer from Riverton and Southwest Region director of the Association, says, “We’ve had a lot of interest from farmers and ranchers so far. I’m really excited about where this is going to take us.”
A group of four producers from around the state has led the development of the Wyoming Hay and Forage Association. The establishing committee included Richner, Jessica Sullivan of Riverton, Wayne Tatman of Lingle and Howard Gernant of Greybull. University of Wyoming Extension’s Caleb Carter will also be integral in the organization of the Association.
A Board of Directors, consisting of one producer from each of the four regions of the state and two at-large non-producer members, has also been formed.
“The committee of people who have been involved in this is pretty important,” Keith says. “We split up the state into four regions for our directors.”
The Southeast Region, represented by Kenny Degering of Lusk, covers Niobrara, Platte, Goshen, Laramie and Albany counties. Fabrizius represents the Southwest Region, which includes Fremont, Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta, Lincoln, Teton and Sublette counties. From the Northwest Region, including Park, Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie counties, Gerry Danko of Powell serves as the producer director, and Brian Wing of Casper is the Northeast Region director. The Northeast Region covers Natrona, Johnson, Sheridan, Campbell, Crook and Weston counties.
“We also have two areas that we classify as at-large,” Keith explains. “They are the east and west halves of the state. These at-large directors aren’t producers. They are people who are involved in organizations or industries that are heavily dependent on the hay and forage industry.”
Terry Niswonger of Torrington and Greg Anderson of Riverton were selected for the at-large positions.
Keith adds, “These people were selected by the establishing committee, and they spent quite a bit of time looking at the regions and identifying people who would be willing and able to serve, as well as people who are strong representatives of the industry.”
The state is split into regions such that each region produces approximately the same tonnage of hay based on Wyoming agriculture statistics.
The main element of the Association will be a website that provides the opportunity to list hay for sale. The site will also feature a list of hay producers and associated businesses that sponsor the organization.
“This website will be a place that members can put what kind of hay they have, how much hay they have and the quality, if they want, so people know it’s available for sale,” Fabrizius says. “We’re still working out the details about how it will work.”
Fabrizius adds that no prices will be listed on the site to encourage direct contact between producers and hay buyers.
The Wyoming Hay and Forage Association aims to create a directory for hay producers around the state.
Richner says, “We want to create an Association that people will be involved in with a platform that is user-friendly and promotes Wyoming hay.”
The organization will also partner with the Wyoming Business Council to put on the Wyoming State Hay Show at the Wyoming State Fair and exhibit Wyoming hay at the World Dairy Expo, Forage Superbowl and other national trade shows.
The Association directory, as well as more information from producers, will be prominently displayed at these trade show venues, as well.
In addition to marketing activities, Fabrizius and Keith emphasize that education is another important piece the Association will follow up with.
“As time goes on, in each region, there will be different events, like field days and forage seminars, to provide education opportunities for producers on production practices, forage testing practices and other things,” Keith says.
Fabrizius adds, “Most of us have worked with a lot of guys from seed companies and other places, and they know their stuff. We’d like to try to bring some of them together for an educational program to talk to farmers.”
He notes that the meetings will likely be set in the winter months when producers aren’t trying to get work done in the fields.
An additional component of the Association will be a transportation hub where producers can find trucking for their hay.
“We’ve had some trouble with guys who sell hay but then can’t find the trucks available to transport it because of interstate transport laws and other things,” Keith explains. “We want to try to connect producers to guys with trucks.”
Fabrizius notes that the Association is still working to establish its final bylaws, but they are beginning to see interest from producers around the state.
“I’ve had several people call and ask me about the Association,” he says, adding, “Everyone I’ve talked to is on board.”
Keith adds that soon, membership will be available for producers.
Fabrizius adds, “This will be an avenue for farmers who don’t know where to go or people who don’t know where to buy hay.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.